I like to keep this blog eclectic, free range blogging on everything from bicycles to trains. And that means roads and rails are fair game too.

For the last couple weeks some of our Minnesota and Wisconsin Congress Members have been trying to attach a funding bill for a mega bridge across the St.Croix River near Stillwater, MN to the tax cut and unemployment extension bill, which has become one heck of a tall “Christmas Tree” all by itself. Now there’s already a half decent bridge across the river at Stillwater, and a pretty good looking ol’ lift bridge it is. Being old and creaky, that bridge is pretty high maintainence, but it’s enough of a community landmark that it can’t be torn down and will have to be maintained even if a new bridge gets built, so no savings there. The proposed megabridge has a sticker price of around $700,000,000. At the western end it’ll dump it’s four lanes of traffic right onto a four lane expressway with a bunch of stoplights. The surrounding area is pretty well built up, so figure on upgrading that collection of stoplights to add a couple hundred million more. Of course, every other group will insist that everything on their wish list be added to this “christmas tree”- So figure on millions more for bike trails, park & ride lots, and maybe even a train station. Yup, we’ve now got a billion dollar boondoggle! Never mind that wiser heads have proposed less expensive and less intrusive options- For the backers of this billion dollar boondoggle, it’s all or nothing.

Meanwhile, the transit advocates in the cities are proposing a third and a fourth light rail line, from downtown Minneapolis to the southwest and northwest respectively. Both of these routes already have underused (one or two freight trains a day) railroad tracks… Lease a passenger trainset, set up some portable stations, and for a few million see if the demand is there. If it succeeds, buy trainsets, upgrade the tracks, and build permanent stations. For a fraction of a billion, the citizens could have rail transit. But Noooo… The advocates insist on their own overbuilt tracks, art guilded stations, and overpriced electric trainsets and the costly overhead wires to power them. The first light rail line ran almost a billion, the second is still under (lengthy) construction and will probably cost over a billion, and the third and fourth… Neither is funded and they could break the two billion dollar mark, each.

As if billion dollar road and rail boondoggles aren’t enough, the Vikings pro football team is trimming a “christmas tree” too. But 30 years ago we built them and the Twins a brand spankin’ new stadium, and they almost immediately commenced complaining about how inadaquite it was. So the Vikings are demanding that the taxpayers build them a new stadium, and they’re trimmimg that tree with demands for a shopping center, luxury boxes, and even the parking facility, and no way is the existing little diamond interchange gonna be able to cope with the traffic… And seeing this shiny “christmas tree”, unrelated enterprises ranging from horse tracks to casinos to bars want to hand their hundreds of millions of dollars in ornaments on it too… No way will the tab on this boondoggle be under a billion.

Enough! Stillwater, you’re area ain’t growing anymore and you don’t need a four lane freeway to dairyland. Light rail lovers, we can’t afford to blow a billion on your dream train before the first “highball”. And Vikings, concentrate on winning a game once in a while and be glad we haven’t thrown you out of the Metrodome!